tv Action News at Noon ABC June 8, 2017 12:00pm-12:30pm EDT
>> no. >> you never had a discussion with jeff sessions on this? >> not at all. >> on any of your meetings? >> no. >> did he inquire, show any inquiry whatsoever, what was that meeting about? >> no. you're right. i did say to him -- i had forgotten this. when i talked to him and said you have to be between me and the president and that's incredibly important and i forget my exact words. i passed along the president's message about the importance of aggressively pursuing leaks of classified information which is a goal i share and passed that along to the attorney general. i think it was the next morning in a meeting. but i did not tell him about the flynn part. >> do you believe this arised to obstruction of justice? >> i don't know. that's bob mueller's job to sort that out. >> thank you, sir. >> mr. chairman.
>> senator cotton. >> mr. comey you're encouraged the president to release the tapes. will you encourage the department of justice or your friend at colombia or mr. mueller to release your notes? >> sure. >> you said you did not record your conversations with president obama or president bush in memos. did you do so with jeff sessions or any other senior member of the trump department of justice? >> no. i think it -- i'm sorry. >> did you record conversations and memos with attorney general lynch or another senior member of the obama department of justice. >> no, not that i recall. >> in your statement for the record you site nine private conversations with the president, three meetings and four phone calls not discussed in your statement for the record. what happened to those phone calls? >> the president called me i believe shortly before he was inaugurated as a follow-up to our conversation, private
conversation on january the 6th. he just wanted to reiterate his rejection of the allegation and talk about he thought about it more and why he thought it wasn't true, that the verified -- unverified and salacious parts and he asked me again hope you're going to stay, you're doing a great job and i told him i intended to. there was another phone call that i mentioned, i think was -- could have the date wrong -- march the 1st as i was about to get on the helicopter. there was a secure call we had about an operational matter not related to any of this about something the fbi was working on, he wanted to make sure i understood how important i thought it was. totally appropriate call. then the fourth call -- probably forgetting. i may have meant the call when he invited me to dinner. i'll think about it as i'm answering other questions. i think i got that right.
>> let's turn to the underlying activity at issue here, russia's hacking into the e-mails and releasing them and collusion. do you believe donald trump colluded with russia? >> it's a question i don't think i should answer in an open setting. when i left we did not have an investigation focused on president trump. but that's a question that will be answered by the investigation i think. >> let me turn to a couple statements. senator feinstein, she was the ranking member on this compete tee until january. she had access to information and now the senior democrat on the judiciary committee. on may 3rd on cnn's wolf blitzer show she was asked do you have evidence there was collusion between trump associates and russia during the campaign. she answered not at this time. on may 18th. the last time asked if you had seen any evidence of collusion
and you said to me and i'm quoting you now, you said not at this time. has anything changed since we last spoke? senator feinstein said well no, no it hasn't. do you have any reason to doubt those statements? >> i don't doubt that senator feinstein was saying she understood. i don't want to go down that path because i'm not in the government anymore and answering in the negative i just worry leads me deeper and deeper into talking about the investigation in open setting. i want to be -- i'm always trying to be fair. i'm not trying to say just by my answer something nefarious. but not as to this person or not that person. >> "the new york times" said repeated contacts with russian intelligence. you were asked if that was an inaccurate story and you said in the -- would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong? >> yes.
>> at the time it was published did you have any contact between trump people and russians intelligence officers, government officials or close associates of the government? >> that's one i can't answer sitting here. >> i want to turn attention now to mr. flynn and the allegations of his conduct to be specific, his alleged interactions with the russian ambassador on the telephone and what he said to senior trump administration officials and department of justice officials. i understand there are other issues with mr. flynn related to his receipt of foreign monies or advocacy activity on behalf of foreign governments. serious and credible allegations. specifically about his interactions with the russian ambassador. there was a story on january 23rd in "the washington post" that says fbi reviewed flynn's calls with russian ambassador but found nothing illicit. is this story accurate?
>> i don't want to comment on that senator because i'm pretty sure the bureau has not confirmed any interception of communications. i don't want to talk about that in an open set. >> would it be improper for an incoming national security adviser to have a conversation with a foreign ambassador? >> in my experience, no. >> but you can't confirm or deny that the conversation happened and we would need to know the contents of that conversation to know if it was improper? >> i don't think i could talk about that in open setting. i also don't want to talk about things what is now somebody else's responsibility but maybe in the classified setting we can talk. >> you stated earlier there wasn't an open investigation of mr. flynn and the fbi. did you or any fbi agent ever sense that mr. flynn attempted to deceive you or made false statements to an fbi agent?
>> i don't want to go too far. that was the subject of the criminal inquiry. >> did you ever come close to closing the investigation on mr. flynn? >> i don't think i could talk about that in opening setting either. >> we can discuss more in closed setting then. mr. comey, in 2004 you were a part of a well publicized event about a program recertified several times and you were acting attorney general when attorney general john ash croft was incapacitated due to illness. there was a showdown at the hospital here. the next day you said you wrote a letter of resignation before you met with president bush. is that accurate? >> yes. i think so. >> at any time you were the fbi director during the trump administration did you ever write and sign a letter of
recommendation and leave it on your desk? >> letter of resignation, no, sir. >> letter of resignation. despite all of the things you testified to here today, you didn't feel this rose to the level of an honest but serious difference of legal opinion between accomplished and skilled lawyers in that 2004 episode? >> i wouldn't characterize the circumstances in 2004 that way. but to answer, no, i didn't find -- encounter any circumstance that led me intend to consider to resign, no, sir. >> thank you. >> senator harris. >> director comey i want to thank you, you are now a private citizen and enduring a senate committee. each of us get 7 minutes instead of 5. so thank you. >> i'm between opportunities now. >> well, you are -- i'm sure you'll have future opportunities. you and i are both former prosecutors. not going to require you to
answer. i just want to make a statement that in my experience of prosecuting cases when a robber held a gun to somebody's head and said i hope you will give me your wallet, the word hope was not the most operative word at that moment. but you don't have to respond to that point. i have a series of questions to ask you. are you aware of any meetings between the trump administration officials and russian officials during the campaign that have not been acknowledged by those officials in the white house? >> that's not even if i remember clearly, that's not what i can answer in open setting. >> are you aware by associates of the campaign to hide their communications with russian officials through encrypted communications or other means? >> i have to give you the same answer. >> in the course of the fbi's investigation did you ever come across anything that suggested that communications, records,
documents or other evidence had been destroyed? >> i think i got to give you the same answer. it would touch on investigative matters. >> are you aware of potential efforts to conceal communications between russian officials? >> same answer. >> thank you. as a former attorney general i have a series of questions about your connection with the attorney general during the course of your tenure as director. what is your understanding of the parameters of general sessions recusal from the russian investigation? >> i think it's described in a written release or statement from doj which i don't remember sitting here but the gist was he would be recused from all matters relating to russia and the campaign or activities or russia in the '16 election. something like that. >> is your knowledge of the extent of his recusal based on the public statements he's made. >> correct. >> was there any memorandum
issued from the attorney general or the department of justice to the fbi outlining the parameters of his recusal. >> not that i'm aware of. >> and do you know if he reviewed any fbi or doj documents pertaining to the investigation before he was recused? >> i don't know. >> and after he was recused? i'm assuming same answer? >> same answer. >> aside from any notice or memo not sent or was what mechanism or process was in place to assure the attorney general would not have any connection with the investigation to your knowledge? >> i don't know for sure. i know that he had consulted with career ethics officials, didn't know how to run a recusal at doj. but i don't know what mechanism they set up. >> the attorney general recused himself from the investigation. do you believe it was appropriate for him to be involved in the firing of the chief investigator of that case? of that russia interference? >> that's something i can't answer sitting here. it's a reasonable question. but that would depend on a lot
of things i don't know like what did he know, what was he told, did he realize the president was doing it because of the russia investigation. i don't know the answer. >> you mentioned in your written testimony in here that the the asked you for a loyalty pledge. are you aware of him making the same request of any other members of the cabinet? >> i am not. >> do you know one way or another -- >> i don't know one way or another. never heard anything about it. >> and you mentioned that on -- you had the conversation where he hoped that you would let the flynn matter go on february 14th or thereabouts. it's my understanding that mr. sessions was recused from any involvement in the investigation about a full two weeks later. to your knowledge, was the attorney general -- did he have access to information about the investigation in those interim two weeks? >> i don't -- in theory, sure. because he's the attorney general. i don't know whether he had any
contact with any materials. >> was there any knowledge he should not have contact with any information about the russia investigation between the february 14th date and the day he was ultimately recused or recused himself on march 2nd? >> not to my knowledge. i don't know one way or another. >> did you speaking to the attorney general about the russia investigation before his recusal? >> i don't think so. no. >> do you know if anyone in the fbi department forwarded any documents or information or memos of any sort to the attention of the attorney general before his recusal? >> i don't know of any, remember any sitting here. it's possible but i don't remember any. >> do you know if the attorney general was involved in any aspect of the russia investigation after his recusal on the 2nd of march? >> i would assume not. i don't know of any information that would lead me to believe he did something to touch the russia investigation after the
recusal. >> in your written testimony you indicate that you -- after you were left alone with the president you mentioned it was inappropriate and should never happen again to the attorney general and apparently he did not reply and you write he did not reply. what did he do? if anything. did he just look at you? was there a pause? what happened? >> i don't remember real clearly. i have a recollection -- this may be a faulty language. his body language gave me the sense of what am i going to do. >> did he shrug? >> i don't remember clearly. the reason i have that impression is, like what am i going to do but i don't have a clear recollection of that. he didn't say anything. >> and on that same february 14th meeting you said you understood the president to be requesting you drop the
investigation. after that meeting, however, you received two calls from the president march 30th and april 11th where the president talked about a cloud over his presidency. has anything you learned from those meetings changed your understanding of the president's request? i guess it would be what he had said in public documents or public interviews? >> correct. >> and is there anything about this investigation that you believe is in any way biased or is not being informed by a process of seeking the truth? >> no the appointment of special counsel should offer great comfort to americans no matter what your political affiliation is. this was done independently and honestly. >> do you believe he should have full authority, mr. mueller to be able to pursue that investigation? >> yes. and knowing him well over the
years, if there's something he thinks he needs, he will speak up about it. >> do you believe he should have full independence? >> oh, yeah. and he wouldn't be part of it if he wasn't going to get it. >> thank you. >> senator cornyn. >> thank you mr. chairman. mr. comey, i'll repeat what i've said at previous hearings that i believe you're a good and descent man who has been dealt a difficult hand starting back with the clinton e-mail investigation and i appreciate your willingness to appear here voluntarily and answer our questions and cooperate with our investigation. as a general matter, if an fbi agent has reason to believe that a crime has been committed, do they have a duty to report it? >> that's a good question. i don't know there's a legal duty to report it. they certainly have a cultural ethical duty to report it. >> you're unsure whether they would have a legal duty? >> good question.
i don't know where the legal -- there's a statute that prohibits knowing of a felony and taking steps to conceal it but this is a different question. so look, let me be clear, i would expect any fbi agent to have information about that to report it. >> me too. >> where you rest that obligation, i don't know, it exists. >> you're trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an fbi director a good way to make that happen? by that i mean -- >> yeah. doesn't make a lot of sense to me but i'm hopelessly biased given i was the one fired. >> i understand it's personal. >> no. given the nature of the fbi, i meant what i said. no indispensable people in the world including at the fbi that there's lots of bad things about me not being at the fbi, most are for me but the work will go on. >> nothing that's happened has
impeded the investigation of the fbi or director mueller's commitment to get to the bottom of this from the standpoint of the fbi and the department of justice, would you agree? >> correct. especially the appointment of mueller is critical. >> let me take you back to the clinton e-mail investigation. you have been cast as a hero or a villain depending on the -- whose political ox is being gored at many different times during the e-mail investigation and even now perhaps. but you clearly were troubled by the conduct of the sitting attorney general, loretta lynch when it came to the clinton e-mail investigation, you mentioned the characterization that you had been asked except that this was a matter and not a criminal investigation which you said it was. there was the matter of president clinton's meeting on the tarmac with the sitting
attorney general at a time when his wife was a subject to a criminal investigation and you suggested that perhaps there are other matters that you may be able to share with us later on in a classified setting. but it seems to me that you clearly believe that loretta lynch had an appearance of a conflict of interest on the clinton e-mail investigation, is that correct. >> i think that's fair. i didn't believe she could credibly decline that investigation. at least not without grievance to the department of justice and to the fbi. >> and under department of justice and fbi norms wouldn't it have been appropriate for the attorney general or if she had recused herself which she did not do for the deputy attorney general to appoint a special counsel that's essentially what's happened with director mueller. would that have been an appropriate step in your opinion? >> certainly a possible step, yes, sir. >> and were you aware that miss
lynch had been requested numerous times to appoint a special counsel and refused? >> yes. from i think congress had -- members of congress had repeatedly asked yes, sir. >> yours truly did on multiple occasions. and that heightened your concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest with the department of justice which caused you to make what you have described as an incredibly painful decision to take the matter up yourself and led to that july press conference? >> yes, sir. after former president clinton met on the plane with the attorney general, i consider whether i could call for the appointment of special counsel and decided it would be unfair because i knew there was no case there. we investigated thoroughly. i know this is a subject of passionate disagreement but i knew there was no case there and calling for the appointment of special counsel would be
brutally unfair because it would send the message there was something here. that was my judgment. lots of people have different views about it. >> if the special counsel had been appointed they could have made that determination that there was nothing there and declined to pursue it right? >> sure. but it would have been months later or a year later. >> let me just ask you to given the experience of the clinton e-mail investigation and what happened there, do you think it's unreasonable for anyone, any president who has been assured on multiple occasion that is he is not the subject of an fbi investigation, do you think it's unreasonable for them to want the fbi director to publicly announce that so this cloud over his administration would be removed? >> i think that's a reasonable
point of view. the concern would be obviously because that boomerang comes back it's going to be a very big deal because there will be a duty to correct. >> we saw that in the clinton e-mail investigation. >> yes, i recall that. >> i know you do. >> so let me ask you finally in the minute that we have left, there was this conversation back and forth about loyalty and we all appreciate that the fbi director is a unique public official in the sense that he's a political appointee in one sense but has a duty to pursue the law pursuant to the constitutional laws of the united states. so when the president asked you about loyalty you got back and forth about well, i pledge you my honesty and it looks like from what i read you agreed upon honest loyalty or something like that. is that the characterization? >> yes. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, sir.
>> senator reid. >> thank you. there have been press reports that the president in addition to asking you to drop the flynn investigation has asked other senior intelligence officials to take steps which would tend to undermine the investigation. there are reports that coats was asked to make public statements exonerating him or taking the pressure off him and also reports about director pompeo to intervene and reach out to the fbi and ask them. are you aware of any of these -- do you have any information with respect to any of these allegations? >> i don't. i'm aware of the public reporting but i had no contact, no conversation with any of those leaders about that
subject. >> thank you. you have testified that you interpret the discussion about flynn to stop the investigation? >> yes. >> you testified that the president asked you to lift the cloud by essentially making public statements exonerating him and others, you refused correct? >> i didn't refuse the president. i told him we would see what we can do and the second time he called, i told him in substance that's something your lawyer will have to take up with the justice department. >> and part of the underlying logic was what we discussed many times this morning is the duty to correct. that is one -- a theoretical issue but practical issue. was there your feeling that the direction of the investigation
could in fact include the president? >> well, in theory. as i explained, the concern of one of my senior leader colleagues was if you're looking at potential coordination between the campaign and russia, the person at the head of the campaign is the candidate. so logically this person argued the candidate's knowledge, understanding will logically become a part of your inquiry if it proceeds. and i understood that argument. my view was that what i said to the president was accurate and fair and fair to him. i resisted the idea of publicly saying it although the justice department wanted to, i would have done it. because the duty to correct and the slippery slope problem. >> again, also, you have testified that the president asked you repeatedly to be loyal to him and you responded you would be honestly loyal which is i think your way of saying i'll be honest and i'll be the head
of the fbi and independent is that fair? >> correct. i tried honest first. and also, i mean, you see in my testimony also tried to explain to him why it's in his interest and every president's interest for the fbi to be a part in a way because it's creditability is important to a president and to the country. so i tried to hold the line and got very awkward and i then said you'll always have honesty from me and he said honest loyalty and i ended this awkwardness. >> at the culmination of these events you're fired without any explanation? >> there was an explanation. i just don't buy it. >> yes. so you're fired. do you believe that you were fired because you refused to take the president's direction? is that the ultimate reason? >> i don't know for sure. i know i was fired again i take the president's words, i know i was fired because of something about the way i was conducting the russia investigation.
was in some way putting pressure on him in some way, irritating him and he decided to fire me because of that. i can't go farther than that. >> the russian investigation as you have pointed out and as all my colleagues have reflected is one of the most serious hostile acts against this country in our history underlying the very core of our da mackcy and our elections, is not a discreet event. will likely occur probably being here now for 18, 20 and beyond. and yet the president of the united states fires you because some relation to this investigation in your own words and then he shows up in the oval office with the russian foreign minister after classifying you as crazy and a real nutjob which i think you disproved this morning. he said i face pressure because of russia that's taken off.
the collusion would be that the president would i would think is down-playing the seriousness of this threat, in fact, took specific steps to stop a thorough investigation of the russian influence and also from what you said or what was considered this morning doesn't seem interested in these hostile threats by the russians? is that fair? >> i don't know that i can agree to that level of detail. there's no doubt it's a fair judgment and my judgment i was fired because of the russia investigation. i was fired in some way to change -- or the endeavor was to change the way the investigation was being conducted. that is a very big deal. not just because it involves me. the nature of the fbi and its work requires that it not be the subject of political consideration and on top of that
you have the russia investigation itself is vital because of the threat and i know i should have said this earlier, if any americans were part of helping the russians do that to us, that is a very big deal. and i'm confident that if that is the case, director mueller will find that evidence. >> finally, the president tweeted that james comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversation that he starts leaking to the press. was that rather unsubtle attempt to intimidate you from testifying and anyone else who seriously crosses his path of not doing it? >> i'm not going to sit here and try and interpret the president's tweets. occurred to me in the middle of the night, holy cow, there might be tapes and if there are, it's not just my word against his on the direction to get rid of the flynn investigation. >> thank you very much.
>> senator mccain. >> in the case of hillary clinton you made the statement that there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring a suit against her although it had been very careless in their behavior but you did reach a conclusion in that case that it was not necessary to further pursue her. yet at the same time, in the case of mr. comey, you said that there was not enough information to make a conclusion. tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as former secretary clinton is concerned